Now Simelane becomes villain of the piece

THOSE enjoying the media limelight right now might do well to look at Menzi Simelane to see how easily their fate could change.

THOSE enjoying the media limelight right now might do well to look at Menzi Simelane to see how easily their fate could change.

Simelane first landed in the public arena as head of the newly established Competition Commission.

He was 29 years old and a public sector star in the making. He was a year older than Julius Malema is now.

His talent was never in doubt. His industry dispelled any perception that might have been held that his was yet another "cadre deployment".

Success at the commission included forcing international drug manufacturers to agree that they had been less than fair in fixing HIV-fighting drugs.

Car manufactures also suffered the wrath of the commission.

Toyota South Africa infamously agreed to pay a R12 million "administrative penalty" after the carmaker was caught out for fixing the minimum price of its vehicles.

Such was Simelane's influence that on his resignation as head of the Competitition Commission in May 2005 the highly respected law firm WebberWentzel journal wrote: "A resignation of this nature in other regulatory author-ities would not generate any comment.

"However, Menzi's resignation raises concerns because it is widely acknowledged that there are very few people who have the capacity and experience to step into Simelane's shoes."

Suddenly he is the villain of the piece.

When one follows the arguments against his appointment as national director of public prosecutions you can only conclude that Simelane is - according to his persecutors - guilty of two treacherous offences.

He was on the "wrong" side of whether President Jacob Zuma was getting a fair crack at justice; and of the role of the Scorpions.

To conclude that Simelane is not fit for the job on the basis of the Ginwala report, where he was not given an opportunity to defending himself against the findings pertaining to him, is as opportunistic as it was to recall Thabo Mbeki on the basis of a high court finding without his being asked for his side of the story.

Ginwala was less than complimentary about Simelane's predecessor, Vusi Pikoli, whom she said "was lax in his handling of security clearance issues; and gave former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy too much freedom".

To pick and choose heroes and villains from Ginwala's findings suggests that there must be more here than meets the eye.

This doesn't mean there is no case against Simelane.

But it is curious that some, like advocate Pat Ellis, are bringing the case to have him disbarred only tomorrow.

If they were so moved by the principles of justice, why did they wait almost a year to act on the Ginwala Commission findings?

Another disingenuous argument is that if the DA is successful in having the National Prosecuting Authority decision to withdraw charges against Zuma set aside, Simelane will have to decide "without fear, favour or prejudice" whether to proceed with the prosecution of the president.

This as if any other person appointed would not have to make the decision.

The perennial problem in SA is that there are some who think it their duty to set the national agenda for everyone.

Once they have adopted an opinion, such as having sympathy for Zuma means that one is shady, they tend to think that their thoughts are divinely inspired and only the most irredeemable infidels would fail to see the light.

Until Simelane is "convicted" by a tribunal that has greater gravity than the an opinion of a non-judicial commission of inquiry, I don't see how we can be so convinced that he is the worst appointment for the national director of public prosecutions.